Sunday, December 27, 2009

ABCs Arizona Adventure?

So we arrived in Arizona later than expected - we originally thought we'd get here about 8pm, but didn't drive up until midnight. We've got 4 days and need to stay somewhat close to the house since A is "technically" on call. We also want to maximize our time with our host, M, who flew in (from very far away) and is suffering from major jet lag, no small thanks to our late arrival. So what are we to do?

Despite the many plans and suggestions from M's wife, G, we didn't do a lot during our 4 days in Arizona.

Wednesday - A and I took the car and vacuumed it out and got the outside washed so that M wouldn't think we were complete slobs and I have to say, the old girl cleans up pretty good. It was actually pretty embarrassing that state I'd let it get in and I'm so grateful that A just cleaned without judging. We grabbed some lunch and headed back to the house. G wanted to get her dogs nails trimmed and Chibo needed his done, too, so we went along. Unfortunately, we missed the groomer by about 10 minutes. We should have gotten in the car that minute and returned home as we had dinner reservations and still needed to shower, but G ran into some folks she wanted to talk hour and a half later, we headed back home. A also hadn't showered, so he and I had to rush to get ready.

Dinner was a great little Thai place in Scottsdale for which G had Groupon's. Because of the Groupon's, G ordered way too much pre-food. We got two plates of appetizers and soup. When it was time to order entrees we realized that we couldn't finish four, so we only ordered two, but unfortunately both were meat dishes so A and I were left to pick around it. Probably I should have spoken up, but it can be hard to do, especially when you're still reeling by your friends and dinner companions just calling you "namby pamby liberals" . . . over dinner!

Thursday - Since we missed the groomer, I took all the dogs to get their nails trimmed while G did her riding lesson. I will never repeat this experience and if A is smart, he'll remind me of it when I think of getting a second or third dog. Not only did the dogs jump around from front to back to on top of me and cry the whole way there and back, they also got hair all over the (remember?) freshly vacuumed car. I still have scratches on my arms from holding her crazy puppy while the groomer clipped her. After this, I went back to the house - since no one else was home, I dropped her dogs off and walked Chibo down to the park and talked to my friends on the phone. Nothing like a lifeline!

Friday - Christmas day! Most of this day was spent preparing for supper. We broke out the Wii. A played tennis much of the day and I did a bit of bowling. When G's parents came over, her mom was really interested, so I taught her how to play and she loved it. A nice Christmas meal together, clean up and then early to bed.

Saturday - Boxing Day, G had a riding lesson, so while she was doing her lesson, M, A and I got dressed and went to the farm to see their petting zoo. It was very cool, but I love all opportunities to get close to animals. What's especially great about their petting zoo is that all the animals are rescued - it's not like they bought a camel specifically to have for a petting zoo, but they acquired him as a rescue. The other especially great thing about this petting zoo is that it has an interesting animal blend that I'm not sure you could find anywhere else. Zebra + Donkey = Zonky. Goes by the name Pippi, like Pippilongstockings. Very cute, very special.

After that, we headed to Los Dos Molinos for lunch. A had a special fondness for this restaurant, although we went to the new franchise opened in Mesa instead of the original one and he wished we'd driven to the original for the ambiance as this one was located in a business park next to a car repair shop. After that, (yes, this was our most active day yet!), we decided to go see Avatar in IMAX 3D - yeah, we were dreaming. We just showed up and no, we didn't get in. We also couldn't get into the current flat screen 3D showing. We purchased tickets for a later showing and headed home for a nap. We couldn't decide when to go back to get good seats and ended up leaving later than we'd planned, so we ended up in the front row, which sucked, although the movie was good. A now tells me that IMAX 3D is 17.50 per person and I just can't swallow that, although I bet the movie is great that way. I bitched about the crick in my neck until the next night, when I was able to finally cure it in Palm Desert.

So, that was our time in Arizona. What we learned from this part is that we probably don't want to commit to staying with friends for any certain length of time on our vacation - even with people that we love and even though I love to rest and relax on my vacations, laying around at someone else's house is just about as much fun as laying around at your own. If we're going to fly or drive 1500 miles, we want to DO something!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ABC's California Adventure Part 2

Arrived in beautiful Burbank, California with time enough to check into our retro hotel, the Safari Inn and then head over to Universal Studios theme park. Our hotel is cute - 1950's style, but updated in the 90's so it's got modern amenities. They also allow dogs for only $25 per stay which was as reasonable as we could find. They don't allow the dog to stay in your room without you, though, which makes us even more grateful for Universal Studio's free kennels. So, if traveling with dogs, these are the questions I recommend you ask any hotel:

1. Do you allow pets/dogs?
(Check for size according to your breed)
2. What is your pet fee?
3. Is the pet fee per day or per stay?
4. Can the dog be left in the room? In a kennel?
5. Do you offer any dog walking services?

We liked the Safari a lot, though, and we ended up leaving Chibo in the room when we went to dinner with no problems. We put him in the bathroom with his crate and blankets and he was fine. We tested knocking on the door before we left and had also learned from the night before to leave a fan running to help block noise. We decided to stay an extra night at the Safari.

But when we arrived Sunday, we just threw our bags in the room and headed immediately over to Universal Studios, which was only 10 minutes away. Parked in Jurassic Parking, walked through CityWalk to the gates and dropped Chibo in the kennel through guest services and then we were in the park with 3 hours to play. We managed to fit in a couple shows and rides before we collected our dog and went back to the hotel.

My mom had recommended we go to this restaurant built into the cliff face, but we weren't sure what it was called and couldn't figure it out, so we got cleaned up and headed over to Olive's Bistro down the street from our hotel. The restaurant was empty, and I mean empty, but the small bar was full of local flavor. Paul, our bartender, was friendly and expressive and told us all about the other characters in the bar, including an animator from Ren and Stimpy fame, a local couple he affectionately referred to as The Bickersons and others. A had a couple of martinis and was feeling pretty jovial by the time we left, but we tried to get to sleep so we could get up early and enjoy the park some more.

A was feeling slightly conflicted about our plans for Monday - having enjoyed the park on Sunday, we weren't sure if we should stay all day. We had the option of touring another studio and/or leaving town early. We needed to decide that morning so we could check out and pack the car or not. Our minds were made up when we realized some friends who were also vacationing in SoCal were going to Universal that day. We booked the hotel for another night and decided to visit Warner Brothers the next day. Since we were so close to the park, we just showered, ate and checked the dog in for an early start.

We found our friends right outside of the Shrek 4D Experience getting their pictures taken with Shrek and Fiona - Fiona has asked our friend Sara, "Is this your ogre?" about her husband. Hee hee! We enjoyed the day with them, riding all the rides and seeing the shows we had missed the night before. It was a fun day and we especially enjoyed the studio tour. By the end of the day, my legs were aching, though, from so much more walking around than I am used to doing! We closed the park and headed back to our hotel where we promptly fell asleep at 9pm.

The next morning, we headed over to Warner Brothers studio for an even more inside look at television and movie making. As our guide explained to us, most of the back lots and sound stages on the studio lot are used in television productions, because movie budgets have allowed locations to be used more extensively, but she pointed out the location of Spiderman's famous kiss, the casino from Ocean's 13 and we got to see the Friend's Central Perk set and even walk on the set of Chuck. It was really fun - they were filming the new Nightmare on Elm Street and she tried to let us see Freddy Kruger, but it didn't happen, much to A's regret and my relief!

After that, we headed east towards Arizona with plans to arrive while our friends were away at dinner. We were, however, delayed when our missing California hosts, my aunt and uncle, returned our phone call. They had been in LA for the weekend, but had just arrived to their home in the desert. As we were about 30 minutes away, we decided to stop in for lunch. It was great to see my family and A loved them, so lunch turned into dinner and we got out of their way late! A drove like a trooper, though and got us to our friends' home in Arizona about midnight without incident. Whew! Time for some sleep now!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ABC's California Adventure Part 1

Friday night after work, A and I packed our bags, loaded the car and drove down to Grants Pass to begin our California (and Arizona) Christmas Adventure. Our plans have been somewhat touch and go, because both our employers asked us to work during the holidays (after pre-approving our vacation plans!), some pressure from our Arizona hosts and no response from our potential California hosts. In the end, we decided to just do it and we're on our way!

Friday driving was hard with rain, fog and traffic, but we made to our friend J's house without incident by about 11pm. We planned to breakfast with J and get back on the road and my quote of the evening was, "I'll feel like we're starting really late if we leave at noon." A said he'd like to get on the road by 10. After cleaning Chibo's urine off J's carpet and my luggage and being awoken by him crying in the middle of the night, we woke up later than expected. Breakfast was a delicious frittata with asparagus, zucchini, carrots and onion, toast and coffee and lots of time spent working on our new netbook trying to find a hotel for the next night.

We got out of there at 1pm and I may never live down my quotable deadline from the night before, at least in J's mind. He thought that quite funny. A drove the next leg of the journey and repeated many of the same behaviors that I had done the night before, eyeing the GPS every minute or two and lamenting that we weren't getting there faster. I had kept that to myself, but A kept talking about it, which just made it worse. This day was also foggy and dreary.

We spent the night in Tracy, CA at a Quality Inn. Ate dinner from the food I brought along, which was nice because we didn't have to go out of our room and the town of Tracy smelled a little funny. We also snuck Chibo into the room and so I had to dive bomb him and wrestle him every time he barked, which was, unfortunately frequently as some young gigglers were just getting their room at about 3am. A considers that these may be town gals getting a room with their boyfriends after the bar closed. Maybe.

Continental breakfast, including boiled eggs and mini bagels (yum!) and we were on our way again, for a slightly less difficult, but no less boring, drive down the rest of California.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Came TWICE this Year

A and I joined COSTCO. I feel very suburban, but seriously, the savings are intense! A bought my VitaMix there and in addition to mine, we got one for E and another that we sold online (at just enough profit to pay for our Costco membership, thank you very much). When A saw the VitaMix there (which only happens once in a while), that was the tipping point to getting our membership.

The challenges in my mind about a place like Costco are:
1. Purchasing products that are manufactured by children in third world countries
2. Purchasing from a big box store/warehouse instead of a small local business
3. Purchasing things we don't really need just because they are less expensive

When I was guiltily discussing this with my colleague at work, she reminded me that I can still choose ethical brand names and that these companies love working with warehouse stores, because they know they will sell at volume. Number one - check. Regarding buying things just because they are less expensive, I already know that we're doing that, because we bought 40 ounces of pomegranate juice that neither of really enjoy drinking straight. I'm putting it in smoothies and mixing it with orange juice to use it up. I think it might be the nature of a place like Costco that when you first join, you overbuy, but I am confident that we will normalize our buying habits pretty quickly.

My second concern is a little harder to figure out, but my second Christmas gift from A is the best example of this that I can come up with. I have had a mild interest in sewing for a while and E bought me an old Singer sewing machine a few years ago. The machine needed a tune up, got pretty dusty sitting in my garage and has never been used by me. Now that my friend R has started sewing and I paid $12x2 for hems that I know should be a snap, my interest in sewing has increased again. So, I hauled my old Singer to the small locally owned sewing machine sales and repair shop near my house to see what we could do.

For $100, I could tune-up my basic 3-stitch machine, though any needed parts would be extra. I asked about trading in and they weren't interested and asked about upgrading and was referred to a computerized 120-stitch machine for $399. This was days after Thanksgiving and on sale mind you! Yesterday, we found the same machine at Costco for $170. I cannot justify supporting my neighbors small locally owned business by purchasing a machine there for more than twice the cost at Costco. I can buy fabric, thread, notions and classes there, but I don't even feel guilty about buying my machine at Costco - the price is just too much better.

So, that's my second Christmas gift - A bought me a Brother XR9000 sewing machine. He extracted a promise from me to sew on his buttons and hem his pants, but I think I can handle that. And I'm going to clean up my old machine and gift it to my friend T who would also like to learn to sew. So, everybody wins - even the local sewing machine shop, because I probably will take my machine there for service and may even take a class there so that I don't mess up every pair of pants that A every buys!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Complicated: Loved It

Got to see a free sneak preview of It's Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin tonight. A signed us up for this website that allows us to check out free films - we saw 2012 a couple nights before it opened, too. No opinion surveys, no photo ops on the evening news, just watch the film. I'm thinking they are creating buzz around the film with these sneaky previews and decided to do my part.

I LOVED It's Complicated. You should go see it.

There, my work here is done.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Goods - Liked It

Watched The Goods today as a free rental from Netflix. Seriously, I should bill this blog as a way to live cheaply, because I feel like I'm always talking about how we get our entertainment for free! Anyways, I didn't like the previews for this film and wasn't that interested in watching it, but was pleasantly surprised.

It's a fun film. Give it a go.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blind Pilot: Loved It

Was invited by friends to attend the Blind Pilot concert tonight. They rock. Loved them.

I'm finding it difficult to figure out the language of loving bands. The way that I want to express my admiration and affection for them is to say, "I want to have sex with every single member of the band." Do I really want to have sex with every single member of the band? No. If for no other reason than that one member of the band is a woman and I'm not that gay. But I probably don't really want to have sex with the male members of the band, either - I'm happily blissed out in my monogamous relationship.

But I do find myself attracted to the band and its members in a very visceral way. It's the music, it's the fun they are obviously having and, at the risk of sounding like a dirty old woman though I'm only thirty-something, I think it's also their youthful energy and angst. So, into monogamy or not, go see Blind Pilot - they are awesome.

P.S. Accordion player, I might actually want to have sex with you - you have a beautiful right arm and an electrifying smile. I'm no good with temptation, so please stay away from me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Prestige: Loved It

Watched The Prestige at a friends house tonight. Holy crap - what an amazing film! Can't say anything more about it - if you haven't seen it yet, go see it. I don't know how I missed this one, but I remember A saying this one and The Illusionist in the same sentence and saying they were about magic - my response to that, "meh!" I haven't seen The Illusionist yet, but I will be putting it in my queue now that I love The Prestige, because I realize I may have missed another great film in that one.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Came Early this Year

I got a Vita Mix blender for Christmas. A tried to tell me I'd have to wait until Christmas to open it, but I wheedled and whined until he relented. I'm actually finding myself a little intimidated by it, but am starting to find my way. This blender is amazingly powerful and much more of a machine than it's brothers by Oster. I watched the intro DVD and can't wait to put it through all of it's paces, although I must confess I'm not sure I'm ever really going to "cook" soup in it (yes, the blades create enough friction that you can actually cook in it!).

So far, I've made smoothies, pudding and ice cream in it and couldn't be happier. As I work on my weight loss goals, I'm happy to have this tool on my side. I make a smoothie every morning for A and I and we end up feeling full and nourished until lunch time. And when dessert is just yogurt + frozen berries (basic frozen yogurt recipe) or a pudding made of banana, berries, avocado and even greens, there is nothing to feel guilty about. I even told A that I've been putting greens into the smoothies and he didn't bat an eye!

Thanks Santa A - I love my Christmas gift and won't be sad when I don't have anything to open on Xmas day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Un-PC Opinions

I was thinking this morning about something that was not very PC. At this point, I can't even recall what it was, but I realized that while I wouldn't want to bring it up at work, with my in-laws or in mixed company, that blogging about things/thoughts/ideas that aren't that PC is one of the beauties of the system. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting, not do I condone, just slamming things online because of the anonymity of the net, but rather that writing up a thought process or working on an opinion online may sometimes be safer than bringing a fledgling dissenting opinion out into the light before its time.

I write that and realize that I sound like a bit of a scaredy cat and perhaps I am. After all, I hate conflict with a passion. I think my partner would be surprised to read that, as I am always contradicting him and giving him a hard time - "riding" him, in his own words, although that was only said out loud once. I suppose it's safe for me to have conflict with someone like my partner who I know loves and accepts me and usually accepts my sincere apologies.

I wonder when my sincere apologies won't be enough?